Physically or mentally tired? Stressed? Having mood swings, feeling overwhelmed or depressed? Gaining weight? Lacking sleep?
If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, a vacation may be what you need. Not just any holiday: A wellness retreat.
I don’t mean that in the cliché sense of what is “trending” now; I’m talking about the world’s first medically licensed, government-sanctioned, all-inclusive medical facility: Rythmia Life Advancement Center.
At least, I know that’s what I needed.
Co-founders, Gerard Powell and Dr. Jeff McNairy, Psy.D., M.P.H., feel they’ve had a wellness breakthrough. Powell was once a patient of McNairy’s at Promises Treatment Center in Malibu, suffering from severe addiction and unhappiness despite having achieved the American dream when he sold his company for $94 million dollars. He was buying houses, planes and cars while becoming progressively suicidal. “The more I acquired, the more I suffered,” he explained. “Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars traveling the world to heal myself, I eventually found plant medicine and, in one night, had an experience that liberated me from a lifetime of suffering.” Inspired to help others heal, Powell decided to open a luxury transformation center at an affordable price, where he also teaches his Truthenomics program offering insights for life manifestation. Dr. McNairy was a perfect partner: He offered 25 years of experience working with patients struggling with intense addictions, acute mental illness and traumas. And he had long felt that real healing must come from within, believing that the quickest way is with natural sacred plant medicines.
Guests begin and end their journeys with a live blood cell analysis, aura photo reading and a medical doctor intake/outtake. They work to define goals and design individual programs with unlimited access to medical and naturopathic guidance, group and private therapy with licensed counselors, spiritual advisors, yogis and shamans who practice Ayurvedic science.
“There is hope if people will begin to awaken that spiritual part of themselves, that heartfelt knowledge that we are caretakers of this planet.” – Brooke Medicine Eagle
I flew to this retreat from LAX in less than six hours and, upon arrival, they transported me from the airport to their beautiful gated 4,500 acre, 81 casita resort in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. This is one of only five Blue Zones in the world, where people live the longest, enjoy life the most and are the healthiest.
Rythmia has gathered some of the most respected healers, who customize each stay for one price including accommodations, massages, mud baths, workout facilities, meditation classes, swimming, bicycling, beach use and organic food and drinks prepared by first class chefs from locally grown ingredients. Programs include Life Transformation with Dr. Michael Beckwith, Prana Vinyasa Yoga by innovator Shiva Rea, The Dead Sea Cleanse by Shivanter Singh and ancient Plant Medicine by Dr. Vanessa Grillo, a physician who guides Ayahuasca and San Pedro experiences along with native Shaman Taita Juanito and resident facilitators. (Add-ons range from golf and horseback riding to scuba diving and sightseeing tours.)
Right away, the experience resonated personally with me. “The current Western system of heathcare is deficient in healing the population,” Dr. McNairy argued. “It’s more concerned with managing symptoms and using external sources for change.” I agree. In my own personal struggle with chronic fatigue, stomach issues, depression and confusion, I found the best path was one of natural cures from colonics, acupuncture, therapy, plant medicine and detoxing. Cleaning my body from the inside out resulted in a clearer mind and happier state.
In the last few years, plant medicine has become almost as common as Burning Man as a topic of conversation—at least in certain New York and Los Angeles circles. That’s mostly because so many of us are overstimulated, stressed out and starting to question the meaning of life. At least, that is how my journey with plants began years ago. I went deep, flying across the globe, and, nine ceremonies later, I was convinced this was a way for me to clear unwanted suffering and boost my health. People who saw me afterward said I looked younger, lighter, happier and even sounded softer somehow. I felt all of those things too; plants are one of the only natural medicines that increase your serotonin, which is, of course, amazing.
For me, the plant medicine experience at Rythmia was like the Four Seasons of ceremonies. (My experience prior was deep in Peru with the indigenous Shipebo tribes, who offer nice, but not luxurious, accommodations, and a level of intensity that is not for beginners.) I was impressed with Rythmia. I actually had signed up for Dr. Michael Beckwith’s weeklong meditation, but then, upon arrival, I learned that my stay included the option to do plant medicine work and I was thrilled!
Ultimately, I experienced gentle, yet powerful journeys with a medical doctor in the maloka onsite, clean bathrooms (if you have been to ceremonies, you understand this is often a luxury), lavender infused cloths, eye masks and cozy bedding with an actual mattress (another rare offering). They host traditional South American shamans, who offer an amazing level of depth and magic, but they also have facilitators who proved to be great healers, as well, albeit in a different style. Many hardcore plant medicine supporters will say that it must be done in a certain way. I agree that it needs to be respected, honored and only done with people with the purest of intentions and close connections to source. Rythmia does this along with offering comfort and an onsite doctor.
Unlike Western medicine, a naturopathic approach finds the root of the health issue, unhappiness or discontent and resolves that core issue, resulting in true peace. Detoxifying, healing emotional trauma, connecting to a greater sense of purpose, healing physical ailments, eliminating addictive tendencies, creating inner and outer balance, improving interpersonal relationships, clarity and love of self are all possible with natural plant medicine. It’s funny that people refer to this as “New Age,” when really it’s older than Western medicine and has been relied on in Eastern cultures since the beginning of time. It requires discipline, commitment and time. Many of us are impatient and want a quick fix, so instead we take pills to try to be happy, with questionable results.
The Western medical model, in my life, has proved broken; the approach masked symptoms and further poisoned me. This is why so many people are heading to Peru, Africa, Costa Rica, or their own cities’ backyards to work with age-old plant medicines: Because one session in the right environment can be as effective as ten years of successful psychotherapy. It’s not easy to explain; it’s by no means easy for everyone. The experience is different each time and affects everyone in a unique way, as we are all similar, but unique too. It brings about healing in a variety of ways.
I recommend meditating to see if this is the path for you—and do not Google, watch non-vetted videos or listen to inexperienced friends. Talk to experienced people on a sacred path, true to the discipline of honoring the plants, as they are as sacred as the earth we live on. This type of healing requires work, introspection, looking at things that maybe you have been avoiding or distracting yourself from seeing. It can be scary and confrontational; there can be violent shaking and purging. But it can also offer glorious visions into the universe, your ancestors, angels, guides and God. I look at it almost like a challenging workout that, while difficult, makes you feel awesome afterward.
Rythmia offers many different options. Certainly, you do not need to try the plants, but if you’re looking for a medically approved environment, created by people who healed themselves with plants, I have yet to find anywhere like Rythmia.
Co-founder Gerry Powell’s story is featured in the documentary, The Reality of Truth, along with Joel Olsteen, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Michelle Rodriguez and Peter Coyote—truly worth a watch if you are contemplating working with plants.
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein